About the CE

General Surgery Certifying Exam

  • The General Surgery Certifying Examination (CE) is the last step toward board certification in general surgery. It is an oral exam consisting of 3 consecutive 30-minute sessions, each conducted by a team of 2 examiners.
  • The CE's purpose is to evaluate a candidate's clinical skills in organizing the diagnostic evaluation of common surgical problems and determining appropriate therapy. Emphasis is placed on candidates' ability to use their knowledge and training to safely, effectively and promptly manage a broad range of clinical problems.

Exam Content

  • The CE is designed to assess a candidate's surgical judgment, clinical reasoning skills and problem-solving ability. Technical details of operations may also be evaluated, as well as issues related to a candidate's ethical and humanistic qualities.
  • The CE is now aligned with the SCORE Curriculum Outline. For further details about the exam's content, see What to Expect and Candidate Video.
  • The exam's contents are copyrighted and may not be reproduced or disclosed in any manner.

Admissibility to the Certifying Exam

  • The admissibility period for the CE begins immediately upon successful completion of the General Surgery Qualifying Exam. Candidates are strongly encouraged not to delay taking the CE for the first time as such delays may adversely affect performance.
  • Exam Sites and Selection

    The CE is held 5 times per academic year in major U.S. cities. CE dates and sites for the next academic year are posted on this website in late spring. Once CE sites are posted, eligible candidates should select a site as soon as possible, and must select a site by Sept. 20.

    Failure to select a site is considered a lost opportunity. See Site Assignments for more on the site selection process. Active duty military personnel who may encounter difficulty taking the exam due to their service should contact the ABS as soon as possible.

One Opportunity Per Year
All candidates are offered no more than 1 opportunity per academic year in each year of admissibility to take the CE. If you fail to select a CE site, or opt not to take the CE in a given year, it is a lost opportunity.

Medical License Requirement

  • To register for the CE, a candidate must hold a full and unrestricted license to practice medicine in the U.S. or Canada. The license must be valid through the date of the examination. Temporary, limited, educational or institutional licenses will not be accepted, even if you are currently in a fellowship.
  • It may take several months to obtain a full and unrestricted state medical license—please plan ahead! You will not be admitted to the exam without one.

Exam Opportunities

Candidates who completed residency after July 1, 2012:

  • Candidates who completed residency after July 1, 2012, will have no more than 7 academic years following residency to complete the certification process, including passing the CE. The seven-year period begins immediately upon completion of residency.
  • These candidates will be granted up to 3 opportunities within a 3-year period to pass the CE, immediately following successful completion of the QE. If an applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity.
  • The granting of 3 opportunities in 3 years is contingent on sufficient years being left in the applicant's seven-year eligibility period. See the ABS' exam admissibility policy for further details.

Candidates who completed residency prior to July 1, 2012:

  • Candidates who completed residency before July 1, 2012, will be granted up to 5 opportunities within a 5-year period to pass the CE. immediately following successful completion of the QE. If an applicant decides not to take the exam in a given year, it is a lost opportunity.

Only one opportunity per academic year will be granted to all candidates. All of the above limits are absolute; exceptions will only be made for active duty military service outside the U.S. Individuals who exceed any of the above restrictions will lose their admissibility and must pursue a readmissibility pathway to re-enter the certification process.


Candidates may also refer to the ABS Booklet of Information - Surgery (pdf).

For specific inquiries, please send an email to the exam coordinator.

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